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Thursday, Aug. 26, 1999

Earthquake concerns Turkish restaurateur

Staff writer

OSAKA -- As donations and offers to help victims of the earthquake in Turkey pour in from around Japan, Osaka Turkish resident Raza Alkog faces two monumental tasks.

The first is finding out what happened to friends still unaccounted for. The second is finding time to manage the Turkish restaurant Istanbul Konak, which opened the very day of the quake.

"After a year of looking around for the right location, negotiating a lease and getting set up, we opened Aug. 17," said Alkog, who is originally from Istanbul. "That very evening, the quake hit."

His immediate relatives were unharmed. But Alkog says he is still waiting for word about a few friends. Although he thought several times about returning home to assist, he said he couldn't.

"Had I returned, there wouldn't have been anyone to cover for me," he explained.

Still, Alkog admits that the week following the quake was hectic, and that he spent more time on the phone trying to find out what was going on in Turkey than concentrating on the opening.

One of the first things he did at Istanbul Konak was set out a box for donations. The donation drive is being coordinated by the Japan-Turkey Culture Association, of which he is a member.

"Over the past week, we raised around 50,000 yen. One customer dropped a 10,000 yen note into the box," he said. In addition to cash, Alkog said about 20 of his Japanese friends, some of whom served as volunteers in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake, indicated they would go to Turkey to help out.

The earthquake and coordinating donation drives have kept Alkog quite busy. As a result, he hasn't had much time as he wants to concentrate on the business.

"We get a good lunch crowd, especially from office workers in the area. But evenings can be slow because I'm still dealing with the earthquake."

The menu features a wide selection of traditional Turkish dishes. Meat and vegetable dishes, as well as raki, a Turkish liquor made from anis seed, are available. A la carte prices range from about 700 yen for appetizers to 1,400 yen for shish kebab. Dinner sets are available for up to 3,500 yen.

Once earthquake-related matters are taken care of, Alkog hopes to feature more Turkish cultural events, including bellydancers. "If a party requests a bellydancer, we can provide one. But we don't want to offend any customers, so we have to be a bit careful," Alkog said.

For more information on how to donate to the Turkish Earthquake Victims' Fund, call or fax Raza Alkog at (06) 6534-7277.

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The Japan Times

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